Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast - Episode 39.
This is Part Two of my chat with Paul Jarman. If you missed Part One, I suggest you go back and listen to that first. So pop on back to Episode 38. Have a listen to that one, and then this one, Episode 39. And after that do Episode 40, there are three amazing episodes where you get to listen to Jarms.
I've got to say, it's important to say this, once again, I just came at them from a place that wasn't to do with trying to write a choral work. I just wanted to write music, and then I put it into a choral setting, you know, but look, even Sea of Berries, I'd written Sea of Berries the A, the B, the C section, whatever. And I'd written it and I gave it to Lyn. She said great, but she said it needs to go further. You need to do something else with it, you need another middle part. And so I did, I went back and I wrote a part that you know, for those that know the song, it's the lyrics, water crystals, that whole section that goes into G minor and it's got this sort of Debussey chord progression. Look, once again, um, you know, if Lyn hadn't had said that to me, I probably wouldn't have done that. So she really helped you know, and even in Shackleton, when it goes times were hard, but we made it over, made it over, they wonder why. Now that's the best little melody in it, which I wrote because Lyn had said, You need to have a change. Because my original melody actually just repeated the same, it went times were hard, but we made it over, we made it over, they wonder why. And then it did the same again. She said oh because it's the same, you need to just have something different. And so yeah, I'd learnt straightaway from from her and other people too. And then of course, you know, I just started listening to so much choral music. And yeah, but I think one thing just led to another and I can't even quite remember how it all happened so fast now. But after those songs, Mark O'Leary came up to me, and Mark is a lovely guy, he's a great friend. And I just think Mark is such a great person in Australian music. And Mark said, these are great, let's publish them. And once again, I was so innocent to the whole thing. Okay. And it was different back then to it is now, you know, there were way less Australian composers, you know, of choral music. And I think it's a great thing that there's so many more now, you know, you look at these wonderful sites like Singscore that, you know, isn't that a great site? And there must be what 20 to 30 composers on there, you know, and Annie, Joe and I think Michael Atherton's on there, and there's so many great composers on there. And isn't it great to see that you know, back when I wrote those pieces, I think there was, you know, as far as the published composers, there was probably The Mortons there was Sarah Hopkins, who had just written Past Life Melodies, and all those great pieces. There was Stephen Leek, Michael Atherton. And of course, your Ross Edwards's and, you know, Peter Sculthorpe and so there were people writing it, but I think there's so many more now. So back then it was a different world, the internet wasn't in play with publishing. So you know, when someone like Mark came to you and said, Do you want to publish? You just go? Yeah, okay. And next thing, you know, Mark's printing the music, and it's being showed at choral events or whatever.
Yes, he's taking it to workshops and getting his choirs to sing it. Yes.
There was no online, you know, people got to know you in that way. They didn't even know what you look like, you know, I mean, I'd go and do conducting things and residencies after that. And people they thought I was going to be some old man, because Shackleton sounds old, it sort of sounds nostalgic. They were waiting for some old guy to turn up and at that stage, I was a long haired hippie, you know. So yeah, it's pretty interesting. But um, yeah, Mark, You know, if it wasn't for Mark as well, I probably wouldn't have been heard. You know, I mean, he got my stuff out there and and then it really quickly moved then like, I can't really remember how but I wrote those pieces. And then I think I wrote The Will to Climb again for Lyn and Mark. And then I just started getting commissions, commissions, commissions and I'm talking averaging more than 10 a year and sometimes 15 a year. Yeah. And for all sorts of people, you know, for schools, for choirs, for choirs overseas, and yeah, I don't know how it all happened so fast, but it did and by sort of 2005-2006 I was definitely writing a lot of music. And then I started doing my first residencies, because again, I didn't even know what a residency really looked like, you know. My first residency was with Caulfield Grammar with the wonderful Ruth Friend and Davina McClure that run Take Note Music.
They are, yep.
Again, if it wasn't for them, I don't even know if I've been talking to you now, but they loved Shacko and they loved those songs. And they wanted to put on a musical or a theater piece with music about the Great Ocean Road and the history of the shipwreck coast of Victoria. Because I'd written Shacko, they just thought, wow, this is going to be great. So they dreamed up this amazing residency that went for months.
Months? Oh, okay. All right. Not full time. That would cost a bit too much.
Yeah. No it went over a year actually. But in that time, I probably went down five or six times, you know, and they had Lighthouse operators, poets, historians, artists, me, all these people coming into the school to educate the kids about the Great Ocean Road. We went on an excursion there. I think this would have been in 2003, or maybe 2004. Yeah, maybe 2004. Yeah, we developed this incredible song cycle and that was called Beyond the White Sails. And that's when I wrote a whole lot of new songs similar to Shacko and Let Go The Long White Sails. But yeah, that was the first time I did an actual residency. And again, I was so naive when, when they said, you know, we want you to come down. I'm like, okay, yeah. And the first thing in my sort of working class boy's mind was gotta save the money. This is Caulfield Grammar. I said, you know, I'm more than happy to stay in the boarding house, you know, you don't have to get a hotel. I'm cool. I'll stay in the boarding house. I know. Okay. All right. So Sunday night, I woke up and this boarding house, no offense to Caulfield Grammar, but this was the boys boarding house. You know, that saying, there's a smell in there that will outlast religion. My God Almighty, I walked in there, I'm like, this is not gonna happen. And I rang them up. And I said, Is it okay if I don't stay in the boarding house? They said, yeah, we didn't think you'd last that long in there. So that night, I changed and got a hotel and thus began my journey as an artist in residence.
Oh, wow. And you did it for all sorts of people, you even did a week with us at Sandgate State School when I was there, I still believe that was like the highlight of my time there. I'd been there nine years and I think I was there a year after that as well. But I just think your visit there illustrated, like the pinnacle of having built a program.
It was a great thing working with you there.
Well, well, look it was just so amazing for these kids, state school, government school for those people who maybe are listening overseas, our state schools are government run schools. And we'd just worked really hard to build music knowledge and choirs and things. And we won a grant from was it Q150? The Queensland?
Yes it was.
Yeah, Queensland 150th anniversary of being a state and we won, we applied for and got a grant. So went, yes, let's do this. And I because I had so much support from the school. They said, Yes, you can apply for that grant and yes, you can spend it on that. So that was Tide of the Blue, fabulous song. I wonder. They're probably not singing it anymore. But the Tide of the Blue. And that was with the handprints of kids from a couple of the classes where you're a great teacher, and we wanted to recognise you, to recognise our appreciation. And that hangs up there on my wall, the Tide of the Blue. And you know, you just don't know how those things ripple through time and keep on affecting people. You know?
I agree. It would take me a week talking to you here about all the stories like that, where someone's come up to me and said 15 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, we did this or we wrote that and that changed my life. Like it happens all the time to me, and it's just such a testament to the power of music isn't it? But you know, those residencies are what it's all about, you know, I've done hundreds since then, you know, and written pieces like that one. Those, two little girls wrote that line, that chorus, so beautiful. And without their gift, the world wouldn't have that bit of music, you know? Yeah, I can't tell you how many times I've been at a school and some little kid who I'll probably never see again, has come up and just sung something that is the most golden moment that's changed their community forever, because it might become their school song.
Amazing. I've got to share this little story with you, this will blow your mind. I had this on my phone. Just forgive me for looking down. I just want to read this to you and I'll tell you this little story of, it's just one of the best I've had for a while. So it's hard to put into total context and I hope I don't take too long to tell you the story. But I've had a lot to do with writing music for the Western Front and World War Two as well. But I've had a passion, as you would know, Deb, for a lot of the stories of the Western Front. And of course, you know, going back a few years now, we had the centenary of all these particular battles, you know, from from El Passchendaele, you name it. So I think a lot of Australians have been part of that. So I was commissioned by the Hunter Singers to write a piece for the centennary of the Battle of Fromelles. Now, as most people would know, Fromelles was the first battle that Australians fought in the Western Front and our darkest military moment in history. So in 24 hours, we had more casualties at Fromelle then the Boer, Korean and Vietnam Wars combined. That's just in one night. So it was an absolute disaster. So Kim commissioned me to write the piece I'd always wanted to write about Fromelles. I did heaps of research, read all the books I could, but I had to go and be there. So Kim very graciously flew me over to France. I went out to Fromelles, I spent a week there on my own, I just got a little hire car and I'd drive out each day through the fields to this tiny little village. You know, it's just got a church, a cafe and a school. I just walked the battlefields. I met with locals, I just sat, read books, read poetry, I sat by the graves of the diggers, and just took it all in, you know, I won't go into all the details, because it'll just take too long. But it was a very powerful trip. Fromelles of course as you know, that's where we have recently, thanks to a man called Lambis Englezos, a teacher from Melbourne, he spent a decade painstakingly proving that there were up to 200 missing men off the roll of who died at Fromelles. And thanks to him, and all the work after, everyone would know the story that only about 10 years ago, they dug up around 150 bodies in the soil right there. And there's a new cemetery at Fromelles. Unbelievable. So I knew about all this, of course, here I am sitting there down at the V.C. Corner, which is the famous place where the battle of Fromelles actually happened. And I'd been there for about four hours and one person turned up, just one guy, and he got out of the car and, no actually, it wasn't even a car, I had a car. That's why it stunned me. He just turned up. Can't believe it. In the middle of this field. You know, he just turned up. And I thought I better say hello to him. And he spoke French to me. And I tried to answer him in my schoolboy French failed, and then he had a laugh, and goes, I'm just joking, mate I'm an Aussie too. We talked there. And it was just amazing, right? He was a very highly decorated Australian soldier who had fought in Afghanistan. And during the campaign, he had suffered serious injuries himself, both physical and mental. And he had lost people under his command, and many injuries to people under his command too. He'd just finished his service and he was trying to recover from PTSD. And to do this, he decided to walk and retrace the footsteps of his, I think it was his grandfather or great grandfather, forgive me if I'm wrong. And he walked all around Northern France on his own on foot. And that's why he walked in that day. Now we talked and talked and talked. And then we got to where I lived and when I mentioned the name of one of my best mates that lives here in Valla. He just couldn't believe it, because they had served together and with his brother, because my mate was in the Australian Army as well. When I came home and told my mate, what had happened, he just couldn't believe it. Right. Now, this is, we're talking now, how long ago? What year are we in, 2022? 16 was the Battle of Fromelles. So this was 2015 that I was there. So this is seven years ago. I was at Fromelles, made that amazing connection with my friend here who'd served with this guy, with complete respect, by the way. Anyway, let's go to an aside. About 15 years ago, I wrote a piece called Band of Brothers and I wrote it for the Southport School on the Gold Coast. It went on to become and still is, their school song, okay, side by side forever young, row on row, our finest sons, though you never came home your memory lives on. It's an amazingly beautiful piece and the school sings it with pride. I get this text message. This is just like two or three weeks ago. Dear Paul, my name, I won't say his name on the podcast if that's okay, I just want to respect his privacy.
My name is Bum Bum bum and I've just had the pleasure of watching my son graduate from year six at the Southport school. As part of the graduation ceremony, the boys sang Band of Brothers and it brought back many memories for me. As an Australian Army veteran who served in combat in Afghanistan who lost men under my command, and who lives with physical and mental injuries, I was touched by the words of your song solemnly commemorating the service of the old boys of TSS, and acknowledging the cost of war, while seeing in its darkness, the light of life to be well lived. Those words inspire me to honour my comrades through my life's journey. Thank you, Paul, for the gift of Band of Brothers, yours sincerely.
Now don't tell me. No, no, don't tell me. This is not, it's not the guy that.
Yeah. I wrote back to him.
I know. All right. So I run back to him. Just said, Man, I'm happy to share more songs with you, blah, blah, blah. I'm so honoured. So nice of you to reach out to me that kind of stuff. He wrote back. Thanks for your heartfelt reply. I'm honoured by your offer to send more songs and lyrics. And then he says, I think we may have met under a tree as I stopped for a drink at Fromelles in the battlefield in 2015. Can you believe that? You know, so these are the things that really matter to me the most, you know, in my career, for sure. I mean, that guy, what he what he's been through, you know, and the service to our country. And yeah, it's just that's what really inspires me to keep writing music about real things and stories that matter. You know.
That is unbelievable! Look, you got to stop this. You keep nearly bringing me to tears. You got to stop this. Okay.
Well, you could you imagine when I told my friend back here at Vella, who'd served with this guy, I mean, it was just, I said, you would not believe the text message I got and what it led to, you know, so yeah, it's just it's pretty amazing. You know, that kind of stuff happens all the time. If you're willing to write stories that, you know, do matter. You know, and I've written for Afghani refugees. I've written for Burmese refugees. I wrote a piece for Malala. As you know, Aung San Suu Kyi, you know, I think if you're, if you write about stuff that has that weight, it's going to happen, you know, that you'll connect people, you know, and you'll touch people. And it's really important, I think, to me, anyway.
Oh good heavens. Okay. That is amazing. I was going to ask you questions about people of influence and gratitude. And but let's face it, that's what we've been talking about the whole time. We don't need the questions. It's just coming out. Good heavens. But before we get into maybe some specific things, is there anybody else that you want to mention? Hearing the way you talk? There are so many people in your life that I'm sure you'd like to mention, narrowing it down, is going to be the problem. Hey, there's been, we've already touched on so many. So anyone else you want to make sure you mention?
One thing I really want to say too, I didn't start out to you know, we've already spoken about this, I didn't set out to even know that I was going to be in this world and also as a conductor, and I conduct now all the time. But I can really say thank you to all the other conductors I've watched. Conductors all over Australia and around the world, because I just have learned so much by watching other people, you know, these are all my collaborators with Gondwana, you know, from everyone from Carl and Lyn and Paul and Mark, and Christy and Kim and Kate Albury, and people from overseas like Simon Housley and my good friend, David Lawrence, it's amazing, and that there's so many names I didn't just say there, you know, but we all learn from each other. You know, and as an educator, too, I just think I've been so lucky to to be around so many great people. You know, I mean, my dear friend, Harley, you know, like I learnt when I first met Harley, I just saw wow, I saw Harley in action, Harley Mead I'm talking about and I just thought, Okay, I'm going to rethink the entire way I work with kids. I mean, this guy was like, a superhero, you know, in front of kids. And I thought that's it, because Harley, genuinely loved it and loved them. You know. And I think that's the secret to let the people that are in front of you know, how much you care about them. And I definitely think that's the secret to good conducting. Sure, you've got to have your skills. But I think your ears are such an important tool, you know, as a conductor, but your compassion and your love and to look into the eyes of every single singer that you're making music with, as giving selfless humans which they, are to be able to do that. And let them know how much you enjoy listening to them, and then just make brilliant music together. You know, and that's the way I approach every single show. I mean, the only thing that gets in your way is these bad things here, glasses, because now if I want to see the music and everyone who wears glasses knows this, it's impossible to have clarity of the choir, you know, they look like a bit of a blur.
That's right well you're younger, younger than me, but there will come a time you get sick of that. And then these are my computer ones. Then you just wear these all the time. And then you've got the graduation, and I just leave them on so I can connect with the kids and I can see the music. So that time will come for you soon Jarms, well not necessarily.
What's that? What's that you say?
I'll put my computer glasses back on, but I know what you mean. Yes. It's one of the joys of getting slightly older.
Boy, I know. But you know, there are great things about getting older, I think too. It's just nice to get to a point where you really do feel comfortable with what you do and how you do it. And you've got your bag of tricks that have taken you decades to learn. And I really mean that to for anyone who is watching this who's younger than us, don't be scared to take time. You know, I think for me, I felt really, I'm really grateful that it's a lived experience. Because my bag of tricks, I don't even pull out half of it. Most of the time is there, you know, and it's something that I didn't just learn overnight, it comes from years and years of being on the road and different experiences with music. And I think that's a nice feeling. You know? Yeah, and diversity is the key with music, I think. I'm so grateful that I play as well, you know, because I can go from a choral gig to a school, to playing in a band, to working on a film score, to a TV commercial, or whatever it is, and I can boom, jump in there, then go out on stage in a theater piece or whatever. And, and that's, that's something that only takes time. Nothing else, you know.
Time and yes, willingness to have a go and learn. And yes, so speaking of your bag of tricks, this could actually segue nicely into the nuggets of fabulous that I try to bring into every episode because I just like to learn from your great experience, if you were to just give a little bit of advice or resources, songs, games, activities, tricks, because you often work with really large groups, sometimes smaller. I mean, it must be great to get that variety, as we've talked about, sometimes you'll be conducting hundreds. Other times you'll be working intensely with a group of kids writing parts and harmony. But do you have any favourite little tricks and tips or resources that you'd like to share with everyone?
Yeah, look, we all have our, you know, hundreds and hundreds of warm up games and songs that we've all learned over the years, mostly off each other? I can show you a bunch of them. And I'm still learning new ones. I learned a beauty from Annie Kwok just a few weeks ago, we presented a conference together in Adelaide. And she taught me one that I'd never seen and I couldn't believe I'd never seen it. But thanks. So thanks, Annie.
Thanks Annie, she's fab too. Gee we know some fabulous people don't we.
Annie's a legend. And I loved working with her, it was great. But yeah, so look, I I could show you some stuff like that. But I think maybe the best thing I can say for me, like, personally with the way I like to see things running, let's say it's with any group, a large group or small group, just trying to put it in context, it's very hard to explain sometimes often, when I'm asked to do a PD, I'd rather like I don't want to tell everyone what to do. Just give me a choir and watch. You know what I mean? Like, I'd rather just conduct a choir for a day and everyone just watch. And rather than try to think of now what would I do you know, because often I've got a plan, but I respond to the room so much, you know, and I respond to exactly what's out the front of me, and then I'd go with that, you know, and that if that means ditching the plan I had, well I just ditched the plan I had, you know, but I like to have a plan. However, you know, I think my thing is, I love the vowel aligning of choirs at any level, even beginner choirs and kids, I love just aligning all the vowels. And I love the voice blending. And I'm not the only one by the way that feels that but I'm really big on moving people around to get the best blend. And using people in the choir that are blenders just to put them in strategic spots. And I just love working on a choir like that to create a sound and even a choir of a hundred you can transform the room just by shuffling people in the right place. And once again, it comes down to these guys, your ears. And you know, a lot of the conductor's I work with feel the same, you know, the voice blending and the vowels. But also, I know, I think I love working with a big group. I mean, it's harder with a big group of say, you know, a couple of hundred because are the changes going to matter? Or if you're in a big cavernous room really are the changes going to matter. But with a big group, I think my main thing is motivation, you know, and what I see these days is that we've just got to keep people moving and going and singing, you know, like we should get through a full day not be too tired, keep motivated. So I think that's my main thing, really. I mean, we've all got our musical things, but yeah, just getting people active and to sing together and enjoy it together. Yeah. I mean, I can give you specifics, but it's quite hard to explain really?
No, no, no. I love that.
You've just go to be there in the room.
And they are, they are definitely nuggets of fabulous. And that is, I do agree, I see what you're saying that often demonstration, watching someone at work is a far greater learning experience for other professionals.
Yeah, and like I said too, to respond to the room. Here, I'll give you a little example. A few weeks ago, I conducted the Male Choirs Association of Australia, in Sydney Town Hall. I think we had about 100, maybe 160 singers or so, there's normally about double but because of COVID, they've really suffered. But that's a big choir, 160 is a lot of people to manage. And we sang this beautiful piece called Tell My Father, I don't know if you know it, it's a great piece about the American Civil War. And of course, you know, the losses in that war were so great. It's a very moving pace. Anyway, there is an option for a solo at the start. And so I'm looking around this choir and instantly I thought, okay, it's got to be our youngest member, because some of the guys in this choir are in their 80s you know, I think there was a guy in the choir who was 92. So I thought, to sing this solo, it's got to be the youngest member in the choir, how powerful will that be that this young man in his 20s steps out with that innocence with all these older men behind him and sings this solo, Tell My Father, you know, it had to be. So we got this guy out and he was great. He's got a beautiful voice, but he got nervous, I think and nothing like that ever happened to him to sing in such a big space in front of so many people. And so I then thought, Okay A) I don't want him to feel bad, B) if he does lose his pitch, because he's nervous, he's going to be embarrassed, we can't let anything go wrong. I think we're going to need help. So I chose the next two guys that were a little bit older than him, just a little bit more experienced one in his late 20s, one in his 30s I think, and I simply said at the rehearsal, could you guys sing with him now just to cover him, be there for him. But then I knew that by the time we got to the show, wouldn't it be great if the three of them sang it together? And yeah, I mean, I'm not the only person that does it. I think most conductors do think on their feet like that. But that one decision changed the whole show, because it was just so powerful. And it made this guy feel so good, it theatrically looked good, and it musically worked. Unless you're willing to look at your choirs and really listen and adapt to the day and the room and the moment, you can miss out on a lot of those moments. And, I mean, I've had so many of them. You know, that beautiful song Ian Jefferson's, World War One, Always Remember. There was Charlie and George, you know that one, Thomas and Joseph, Patrick McGee, great song. And I conducted that once in Queensland. And once again, it's just when the stars align, but there's this little boy up the back. And because of listening, I could hear through the choir that he had the sound. And so when we got to the choice of the solo, there would have been 30 kids with their hands up. How long was it going to take? So I just said, Look, mate, would you like to give it a go? This little kid up the back? Yeah, yeah. Do you want to give this, I just think you've got the right voice and everyone went, Oh, God, I can't believe this is going to happen, you know, and the teachers like, really? So this kid stood up in front of about 300 kids, pianos playing Kylie Loss. She's a legend. She's playing the piano part. We get to the solo. There was Charlie and George. Well, man, this kid sang it the best I've ever heard. There wasn't a dry eye in the house at this rehearsal. Including myself. And then I said mate, we'd love you to do the solo tonight. Are you okay with it? And he said? Yeah. Yeah, I'd love to, do I sound okay? I'm like, do you sound okay, you could have written it. By the way, what's your name? He goes, Oh, Charlie. His name had to be Charlie. So yeah. It's, it's just that's how I like to work. I really love to respond to the room.
It makes it more meaningful for everybody.
Yeah, that's it.
Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don't forget that you'll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au/episode39. Also, you can find the transcripts there. So you've got all of the detail that you need. If you've found this podcast useful. I'd really love it if you share the link with a colleague. Remember, all I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. We'll meet again. I hope we will. Bye.
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